Photo: Steffen Jørgensen
John Grant is a sell out! I mean, the gig sold out – but also I got the impression that Grant didn’t really “challenge” his steadily growing legion of fans this time around to his 6th visit to Aarhus as a solo act. Tickets no doubt were gobbled up by the masses due to his spellbinding set at last summer’s Northside festival – apparently a high point for all those who witnessed. In that sense, Grant has succeeded in wrapping up local audiences with his charm and often wonderful music – this night was to be a victory lap of sorts – but in some ways turning the hallowed ground of Voxhall into just another night club with the usual problems that hanging out in a night club leads to.
The night started with a line outside. There was no way around this – the security guards – who look like paramilitary mercenaries – were patting everyone down. I didn’t quite expect this, getting groped a little and watching my partner also get felt up a little bit for weapons due to the Paris attacks in a music venue just 2 weeks ago. The price of freedom is paranoia. This night however seemed to be all about compromise and protecting what I hold dear.
For lack of anywhere else to be – we gingerly got plopped down just in front of the rail in front of the stage. Support on the night was from Icelandic brit-pop revivalists, Fufanu. As soon as they walked on stage, I knew it would be shite – they all had bad 90s Oasis and Stone Roses hair-doos and had that cocky swagger – unfortunately the meat and potatoes music had nothing to do with the scene’s greatest moments – the front-man’s energy and clichéd rock star moves had the crowd going – and their soundman pushed the volume to jet engine levels. I think they were quickly forgotten though – they finished and then the pushing began.
Every Sold out show I’ve attended in this town goes like this: you get in whenever you get in (early to get a good vista), stake your patch, and then watch as everyone else who arrives 5 minutes before the main act shits all over you like you are a traffic cone at a go-kart track. Older gentlemen that are very loud insist on pushing up front and then calling for reinforcements from their friends behind them once they have found the best place to stand. Suddenly you are pushed to one side and a man holding 4 cups of beer and wearing a north-face puff jacket gives you the evil eye before turning sideways and shuffling through you and the person you are standing beside. You see two numbers of your favorite band – then have to leave the area you’ve been trying to defend because you want to stab everyone around you for talking and making stupid comments through the whole affair like they are at a community picnic with a shu-bi-du-a copy band playing. (Just for example….)
Honestly – I’m sick of ranting about people that come to shows and ruin it for fans of the music. I spend so much time fuming. Maybe I need to stop drinking – maybe I need to go to anger management courses – maybe I just need to go in and head straight for the wall by the door – because that’s where I end up. I promise this will be he last time I rant about how inconsiderate folks are at shows now in this city – as it’s pretty evident that the people we are trying to reach are not reading Sound Of Aarhus. I know Tammy – knock it off.
The show. Okay – I’m very conflicted about this show. It seems John Grant has effectively started two camps of fans now – on the one side, we have the beautiful balladry and songwriting of his first solo record “The Queen Of Denmark” – the album that for me, is still what John Grant is meant to be – heartbreaking songs, witty commentary on ex-relationships, surreal sci-fi laden poetry backed by eerie soft rock. Then we have ½ of the newer material – which (and I’m queer myself) I can only describe as “Fag Rock”. It seems like especially on the newer upbeat electronic tunes, grant is asserting his macho/homo side – he is frisky, he is randy – and not afraid to show it. The middle parts of his set were totally dedicated to this John Grant, the horny one. Turning the rows of beautiful people into randy drunken snakes. It’s effective, but also terrifying to watch. Grant, who normally dresses in a suit or a nice shirt – was wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t know what this means.
In between the more dance-able numbers, grant would take over the piano and show you what he can really do – songs like “Glacier” and “Marz” would actually bring the old fans up front – and the new ones would head to the bar or to the WC to relieve themselves. Then the band would crank up the smoke and strobe lights and do another club track (Grey Tickles or Disappointing) and the piano fans would shake their heads and head to the bar and the toilet or go for a cig on the balcony.
I was just watching the whole rotation thing with a bit of fascination until I realized how much I was being pushed around in the process during the change-up. Then I got mad. Then I noticed how selfish some people were. Then – and I didn’t even notice – there was a break for an encore – and Grant played two of my favorite songs – “Drug” (the oldest number he still plays from his former Czars days) and “Caramel” – an absolutely gripping love song that could rival anything any classic songwriter from any era could muster. People’s attention span though waned during these moments – and then – he was gone. The line for the coatroom was already snaking through the crowd as people pushed in confusion, never giving way to others, to get their rags from the poor wardrobe girls.
I’ve learned at this point at Voxhall just to take your time – get another drink and wait for the panic to die down. It’s fucking stress. This was a two-drink night (at the venue) to wait for people to clear the exit. Oh well. We walked up to the stage and asked the roadie for a set-list. Cha-ching.
For some – this was the concert of the year – I guess. I’m sure for someone – John Grant played all their favorite songs – maybe even responded to their heckle. For someone – this was the greatest night of his or her life. For me – it was a great night out – I got to see some great performances – I got to get my drink on – after I wasn’t worried about missing any of the concert – and I got some vinyl from the merch table. Sweet. However for me, unless the poster says- “Intimate piano set: seated only” for the next John Grant show – I’ll give it a miss.
Doesn’t Matter To Him
Pale Green Ghosts
You And Him
Guess How I Know
Queen Of Denmark
For some, this was the concert of the year - I guess. I’m sure for someone, John Grant played all their favorite songs, maybe even responded to their heckle. However for me, unless the poster says- “Intimate piano set: seated only” for the next John Grant show – I’ll give it a miss. (3.5/6)